Schools + Potatoes Upper E. Tennessee Development System (SPUDS)

2007 Annual Report for CS06-048

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2006: $39,762.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Southern
State: Tennessee
Principal Investigator:
Steve Hodges
Clinch Appalachian Farm Enterprises

Schools + Potatoes Upper E. Tennessee Development System (SPUDS)


A frozen potato wedge product made from local potatoes was developed and tested in two school system systems to be purchased as a healthy, bakeable replacement for frozen French fries made from non-local potatoes and bought from a commercial distributor. Schools have begun purchasing the semi-cooked, spiced frozen potato wedge product in 5-lb bags. Large-scale purchasing by local schools was delayed by state agency policies discouraging procurement of local food by local schools, but new legislation currently in the state legislature will encourage local procurement and increased flexibility in bidding to enable small farms to bid on school food needs.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1. At least 7 local farmers will increase income to their farm microenterprise in the first year of the project, and at least 15 farmers by the second year of the project, by producing potatoes for sale to local schools
2. At least 4 FTE jobs will be created in the local community by the end of the first year of the project, and at least 12 FTE jobs by the end of the second year of the project.


A frozen potato wedge product, designed to be a healthier baked replacement for the deep-fried French fries typically purchased frozen from commercial distributors and made from non-local potatoes, was developed. Multiple testing of different potato varieties, wedge sizes, and spicing mixes resulted in a yellow Yukon Gold or Satina potato with lemon pepper spice as the product most preferred by students and school staff. The product was also tested at Jubilee Project’s annual dinner in Hancock County, TN and at a dinner for parents and students at Church Hill Middle School in Hawkins County, TN, with favorable reviews. First test batches were made from potatoes grown by members of Panther Springs United Methodist Church in Hamblen County, TN to lessen the risk of local small scale farmers.

Project staff, along with Lisa Long of Jubilee Project’s Farm to School Program and Clinch Appalachian Farm Enterprises, presented information on the availability of the potato wedges to a meeting of 18 food buyers in northeast Tennessee, and in face-to-face meetings with Child Nutrition Directors in Kingsport and Rogersville, Tennessee. However, large-scale purchasing of potato wedges by local schools was delayed by state education department policies which interpret federal legislation as discouraging procurement of local food by local schools, despite the fact that 37 other states in the U.S. have thriving farm-to-school projects. Discussions between local growers and a state legislator in the fall of 2007 led to new legislation currently in the Tennessee General Assembly which will encourage local procurement and increased flexibility in bidding to enable small farms to bid on school food needs. The legislation has made it through the Senate, and two committees in the House without opposition and is expected to pass in April 2008. The legislation will encourage local procurement and increased flexibility in bidding to enable small farms to bid on school food needs; this is expected to increase interest in purchasing not only local fresh produce, but also the potato wedges since most schools are eager to find more ways of addressing the serious problems of overweight and obesity among students.

The expected increase in the number of schools interested in the potato wedges raises the need to work out both an increase in the number of farmers growing the potatoes, and affordable distribution of the product. Clinch Appalachian Farm Enterprises, with over a dozen grower members, is already coordinating growing of specific varieties of lettuce and tomatoes for public schools, based on agreement with the schools. They will recruit more local growers to grow the desired variety of potatoes for potato wedges. Jubilee Project has been approached by the City of Kingsport with an offer of free space for the purpose of developing a local food retail store as well as a packinghouse for receiving and distributing local food for schools, hospitals, and other institutional markets. The proposed packinghouse will have freezer space and along with produce can pack and ship the frozen potato wedges as part of the larger food order expected from schools and hospitals.

Although the delay in orders for potato wedges due to policy barriers in school procurement has meant that only the farmer has increased income and only .5 FTE jobs have been created so far, the change in state policy noted above means it is very possible that the project objectives/performance targets will be met in the second year of the project.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Project activities will increase income for local farmers who are growing the potatoes being used for frozen potato wedges for schools and other institutional markets. This value-added product will allow these farmers to manage risk by diversifying their farm enterprises and capture another product category and therefore another revenue stream beyond the fresh produce they are producing; by diversifying their markets to include institutional markets like schools and hospitals which are relatively recession-resistant; and by enabling them to invest their money and time in a product that is frozen and therefore has greater shelf life than fresh produce which must be harvested and delivered in a shorter period of time before it spoils.

Project activities will benefit consumers by replacing one of the most unhealthy foods served to their children in local public schools – deep fried potatoes – with a much healthier baked potato wedge alternative. Schools benefit both by having a healthy food that is more storeable than the fresh produce that makes up most of the rest of their healthy food buys. Schools, parents, and all local consumers benefit by the increased amount of money going to farmers in their own communities that previously ended up leaving the local community.


Greg Golden
Kitchen Manager
Clinch Powell Community Kitchens
271 Highway 131
Thorn Hill, TN 37881
Office Phone: 4237334007
Lisa Long
Clinch Appalachian Farm Enterprises
142 Reesor Hollow Road
Church Hill, TN 37642
Office Phone: 4233578073
Bill Davidson, Jr.
Davidson Farms
993 Carters Valley Road
Rogersville, TN 37857
Office Phone: 4233452704
Martha Orndoff

Panther Springs United Methodist Church
794 Whippoorwill Drive
Talbott, TN 37877
Office Phone: 8654754908
J. D. Estep
Agricultural Extension Agent
Hancock County Agricultural Extension
122 Campbell Drive
Sneedville, TN 37869
Office Phone: 4237332526